Parents: Are You Keeping Your Kids in Rear-Facing Car Seats Long Enough?
A new law in NJ says kids must ride rear-facing longer, and parents face stiffer fines if they don't
For many moms and dads, turning a baby’s car seat from rear- to front-facing is a huge — and welcome — milestone. No more wondering if the little passenger in the backseat is snoozing. No more trying to figure out why she’s screaming. No more awkward (and unsafe) attempts at red lights to retrieve a toy or pacifier that’s fallen into her lap.
On September 1, however, parents in New Jersey may have to postpone the switcheroo. That's when a new set of car seat laws goes into effect. According to the laws, which are based on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Infants and toddlers who are under age 2 and who weigh less than 30 pounds must ride rear-facing in a car seat that has a five-point harness (which means some kids whose seats have a three-point harness are likely going to need a brand new ride). To ride front-facing, a child has to both be older than 2 and surpass the 30-pound weight limit.
- Children younger than 4 or under 40 pounds must ride in a rear-facing or forward-facing five-point harness car seat. Once a kid turns 5 or weighs over 40 pounds she can graduate to a booster seat.
- Kids under 8 or shorter than 57 inches must right in the back of the car in a booster seat. Once a child surpasses both the age and the height limit he can use a regular seat belt while riding in back.
The penalty for parents who don’t comply with New Jersey’s new car seat safety regulations is a fine ranging from $50 to $75. (The pre-revision fines were $10 to $25.)
Related: What to Do With Your Old Car Seat
Have a fit
According to AAA, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for kids 6 months and over. Nearly three quarters of children who die in car crashes weren’t buckled in properly. That’s not surprising, given that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics state approximately 80 percent of all child safety seats are installed incorrectly.
For that reason, it’s vital to make sure you know how to install and use your child’s car seat or booster. For parents in New Jersey who need help installing and adjusting a child’s car seat, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety schedules voluntary child seat checkpoints throughout the state, where a certified child passenger safety technician (CPS) will examine and adjust car seats free of charge.
If you live in another state and aren’t sure you’ve installed or are using your baby or child’s car seat properly, find out from your local police department or state department of highway traffic safety where you can get help. You also can find a CPS in your area by going to your state government’s Child Care Seat Inspection Station Locator.